U.S. Water News Online
SOCORRO, N.M. -- The stretch of the Rio Grande below the San Acacia diversion dam is home to 70 percent of the known population of the Rio Grande silvery minnow -- a species now threatened because almost the entire flow of the Rio Grande has been diverted near Socorro for irrigators, according to federal biologists.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has notified the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District that its diversion of water at San Acacia dam 12 miles north of Socorro might violate the Endangered Species Act. The river channel has small amounts of water 12 to 15 miles below the dam because of seepage from the dam. But for 30 to 40 miles south of that -- all the way to Elephant Butte Reservoir -- the channel appears to be dry or mostly dry, Fish and Wildlife service officials said.
The conservancy district has refused the Fish and Wildlife Service request to replenish the parched river channel by opening the gates at San Acacia. District officials said they have a legal obligation to provide water to 416 farmers in the vicinity of the dam, but they have agreed to a short-term solution -- leaving 25 percent, or 3,000 acre feet, of water in the river. This water, which is owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service, will be released from San Acacia dam.
The water is normally diverted to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge southeast of Socorro, which will be left with 9,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot is equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water.
Joe Mazzoni, assistant regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said he hopes that reducing the water delivery to the refuge will provide enough water to keep minnow populations alive for the next 30 days while officials work on long-term solutions.
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